The Long, Hot Summer

The Long, Hot Summer is an American drama series from 20th Century Fox Television that was broadcast on ABC-TV for one season from 1965-1966.  Created by Dean Riesner, The Long, Hot Summer was based on the novel The Hamlet by William Faulkner, the short story “Barn Burning”, and the 1958 film of the same name.

 The series was set in the Deep South community of Frenchman’s Bend, Mississippi.  The community was dominated and owned by the town’s wealthy, powerful (and deceitful) bank owner “Boss” Will Varner (Edmond O’Brien).  A widower with two grown children who also owned other businesses besides the town’s bank, the unscrupulous Varner ran the town and its citizens with an iron fist and nobody dared to question him.  He and his family lived in the largest mansion in Frenchman’s Bend.

However, problems arose in Varner’s orderly world when Ben Quick (Roy Thinnes), a young man whose father Varner destroyed some years prior, returns to town after thirteen years away to reclaim his family’s farm and to challenge Varner’s absolute authority over the town and its people.  Ben’s aim was to settle the score against the wicked Varner in the fight his father ran from.

Supporting characters include Clara and Jody Varner; Jody was Will’s weak-willed and immature, but more honest son and Clara was Will’s sensitive and sensible but deeply troubled older daughter who was considered to be the lady of the house (in lieu of her late mother).  To her father’s dismay, she liked Ben; Minnie Littlejohn, the town’s hotel owner who is a good friend to many in town and was also the mistress of Will Varner; and Eula Johnson, a 17 year old girl who becomes a central point in wealthy Jody Varner’s life after he picks her up during a rain storm and defends her from her brother and fiance.

Also seen occasionally was Andrew, the Varner family’s butler/chauffeur; Sheriff Harve Anders, the local sheriff for the county in which Frenchman’s Bend is located; Judge Armistid, the community’s judge; and Dr. Aaron Clark, the Varner family’s physician.

In January 1966, series star Edmond O’Brien left the series after a disagreement with the producers (the disagreement was about making Ben Quick the main focus of the show instead of the Varners) and was replaced by Dan O’Herlihy.  O’Herlihy played the role of Will Varner for the rest of the series’ run.
The Long Hot Summer was scheduled on Thursdays at 10 p.m. EST opposite CBS’ Thursday night movie and NBC’s long-running variety series The Dean Martin Show.  The series was canceled after twenty-six episodes with the last original episode airing on April 13th, 1966.
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